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Television & Film

American University Headlines and Hosts DC Environmental Film Festival

By Devan Kaney

Farmer standing in greenhouse with plants

"50 Years of Farming: For Love and Vegetables" is one of the films produced by SOC's Center of Environmental Filmmaking that will screen at DCEFF March 15-26.

American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking has been bringing the D.C. Environmental Film Festival to campus since 2005. In 2016, it’s premiering two films at the festival. 

In all, four Center projects will be shown at the festival. Two will be making their world premieres, “When Mickey Came to Town” and “The Culture of Collards”. “Collards” is actually the third in a series of films the Center has produced on sustainable farming with support from the Prince Charitable Trusts. The other two, “Farming for the Future” and “50 Years of Farming: For Love and Vegetables” will also be shown at the festival as part of the Farming for the Future program. All four films are executive produced by Chris Palmer, Center director and a film professor at AU.

Palmer will himself be part of several events, including a discussion on impactful filmmaking and he is hosting of the Eco-Comedy Film Competition and the Student Short Film Festival, which includes the work of AU students. He will also be hosting An Evening with Chris Palmer, an annual interactive presentation that this year will focus on the most important environmental films of all time.

Finally, "Chesapeake Footsoldiers"—conceived, written, produced, shot, directed, and edited by students in Environmental & Wildlife Production (COMM 568), a Center course— tells the stories of unsung heroes who work to confront some of the Bay’s biggest ongoing challenges. The film will air on Maryland Public Television in April. 

See full schedule of SOC related events and screenings below

When Mickey Came to Town (USA, 2016, 30 min.) World Premiere.
Twenty-two years ago, Disney thought they could impose an unwanted American History theme park on the people of central Virginia. Disney thought people wanted white-washed history with rollercoasters and battle recreations. They thought people wouldn't notice their plans for a massive development project of apartments, hotels and golf courses. They thought people wouldn't notice the project's impacts on traffic, sprawl and the environment. They thought wrong. Directed by Sam Sheline. Produced by American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and the Prince Charitable Trusts. Producer Sam Sheline, Director of Photography Tony Azios, Editor Adam Lee. Executive Producers: Chris Palmer, Kristin Pauly.

Panel discussion, hosted by Professor Chris Palmer, follows screening with Sam Sheline, Tony Azios, Adam Lee, and other key people behind the film.

Reception at 6:00 p.m. with food provided by Chaia, a local “farm to taco” vegetarian restaurant.

Farming for the Future - Enduring Traditions, Innovative Practices
This program of short films and panel discussion will illustrate how farmers and communities are expanding their farming traditions and practices and preserving farmland to meet the demands for sustainable, locally grown food while ensuring that farming remains a profitable career.

Age of the Farmer (USA, 2015, 6 min.)
As the average age of North American farmers approaches 60 years old, a new generation in the Pacific Northwest explores a future in agriculture by volunteering on organic farms. Directed by Spencer MacDonald and produced by Eva Verbeek.

Farming for the Future (USA, 2013, 7 min.)
Cliff Miller of Mount Vernon Farm in the Virginia Piedmont is trying innovative management techniques to sustain his farm for future generations. Cliff’s story is that of many farmers seeking new ways to be economically and environmentally sustainable.Directed by Aditi Desai and produced by AU’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and the Prince Charitable Trusts.

50 Years of Farming: For Love & Vegetables (USA, 2014, 10 min.)
The story of Potomac Vegetable Farms, an organic farm in Virginia. Directed by Aditi Desai. Produced by Vanina Harel. Executive produced by AU’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and the Prince Charitable Trusts.

Walt (USA, 2015, 6 min.)
Organic raisin farmer Walt Shubin has dedicated the last 65 years of his life to restoring California’s San Joaquin River to its previous glory. In the midst of drought, he argues for sustainable water use. Directed and produced by Justin Clifton.

The Culture of Collards (USA, 2016, 7 min. ) World Premiere
Collard greens are more than a simple side dish. Brought to the American South with the slave trade, they represent a critical aspect of African American cultural history. A new generation of passionate farmers, culinary historians and educators work tirelessly to preserve and share this cultural heritage while promoting healthy communities. Hear their stories. Directed and produced by Aditi Desai and Vanina Harel. Executive produced by AU’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and the Prince Charitable Trusts.

Food for Thought, Food for Life (USA, 2015, 22 min.)
Industrial agriculture takes a toll on both the health of our environment and the quality of our food. The film surveys problems with today’s agribusiness world, voicing new solutions offered by farmers, chefs, researchers, educators, and advocates.Directed and produced by Susan Rockefeller.

Panel discussion follows screenings. Host and Moderator: Chris Palmer, Director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, School of Communication, American University. Panelists: Film and Multimedia Producer Aditi Desai; filmmaker Vanina Harel; Chris Miller, President, Piedmont Environmental Council; and Kristin Pauly, Managing Director, Prince Charitable Trusts.

An Evening with Chris Palmer - The Most Important Environmental/Conservation Films of All Time
Founder and Director, Center for Environmental Filmmaking, School of Communication, American University. Film producer Chris Palmer, building on his new book Now What, Grad? Your Path to Success After College, describes the best conservation and environmental films of all time, illustrating his remarks with compelling clips. His new book, Now What, Grad? will be available for signing following his presentation. He will also screen the winners of this year’s Eco-Comedy Video Competition, co-sponsored by AU’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking and The Nature Conservancy. Dr. Elizabeth Gray, Director of The Nature Conservancy’s MD/DC Chapter, will co-present the awards with Professor Palmer.

Student Short Environmental Film Festival

The Monarch Butterfly Effect (American University, 2015, 7 min.) An international film team brings attention to the threats facing the iconic Monarch butterfly, explores the ecological, cultural and economic importance of the species, and celebrates the power of ordinary people within the United States and Mexico to preserve the monarch butterfly for future generations. Presented by Jillian Hanson and Nick Zachar.

Chesapeake Footsoldiers (American University, 7 min.) Unsung heroes confront some of the Chesapeake Bay’s biggest ongoing challenges, from replenishing historically low oyster stocks, to stopping nutrient pollution from farms that limits the Bay's recovery. One is Eastern Shore biologist and conservationist Drew Koslow, whose current focus is to install bioreactors, a new and simple solution to keeping nutrients from livestock manure out of the Chesapeake Bay. Presented by Katie Bryden.

Cold Rush: The Changing Arctic
(Earth Focus, 2015, 14 min.)
The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth. This affects weather and coastal erosion threatening communities worldwide. But with melting sea ice comes new opportunities for shipping and development. Will the oil, gas, and mineral rich Arctic lead to a rush for development? Might this lead to conflict and serious consequences for the Arctic's fragile environment?Produced by Jamey Warner.

Who Will Save the River Dolphin? (George Mason University, 2016, 2 min. trailer)
Three young conservationists struggle against considerable odds to continue their careers while trying to save one of Earth’s last river dolphin species. Produced by Jennifer Lewis.

A Conversation with William Reilly (American University. 2015, 5 min)
Former director of the Environmental Protection Agency, William K. Reilly discusses the future of climate change and the role of the EPA in a short conversation at American University. Reilly was the director of the EPA, a past president of the World Wildlife Fund, a past president of the Conservation Fund, and served as the co-chairman of the BP Horizon Oil Spill Commission.Produced and Directed by Kent Wagner.


Ok, I've Watched the Film, Now What?
An Impact Filmmaking Panel with Experts in the Field.
Film clips and panel discussion, hosted and moderated by Chris Palmer, Director, Center for Environmental Filmmaking, School of Communication, American University.

How do we produce films that make a difference? This session, illustrated with clips of inspiring films, explores the ways we can turn films into action, at both the policy and personal levels. Our panelists will address the challenges of producing films that have a tangible and measurable impact on their audiences and society.

Panelists: Oscar-nominated filmmaker and environmental advocate Josh Fox (GasLand) and director of 2016 EFF selection How To Let Go of the World; award-winning producer and director Wendy Ettinger, Co-Founder, Chicken & Egg Pictures; and documentary producer Caty Borum Chattoo (WalMart: The High Cost of Low Price, Stand Up Planet), strategist, researcher, and Co-Director, Center for Media & Social Impact, American University.


(USA, 2015, 82 min.) Washington, D.C. Premiere
Nuclear waste forces us to think about the distant future: the radioactive trail from our bombs and power plants will last 400 generations. Repeat: 400 generations! So we need a “deep time” contingency plan. How can we mark off toxic land to safeguard our descendants 10,000 years from now, when so little feels truly permanent? Part wake-up call, part observational documentary, part sci-fi graphic novel, Containment tracks our most imaginative attempts to plan for our radioactive future and reveals the startling failure to manage waste in the present, epitomized by the Fukushima disaster. Directed and produced by Peter Galison and Robb Moss. In English/Japanese, with subtitles.

Discussion, moderated by Chris Palmer, Founder and Director, Center for Environmental Filmmaking, American University, with filmmakers Peter Galison and Robb Moss, follows screening.

Chesapeake Footsoldiers
This documentary—conceived, written, produced, shot, directed, and edited by students in Environmental & Wildlife Production (COMM 568)—will air during Maryland Public Television’s Chesapeake Bay Week in April. Chesapeake Footsoldiers tells the stories of unsung heroes who work to confront some of the Bay’s biggest ongoing challenges, from replenishing historically low oyster stocks, to stopping chronic nutrient pollution that limits the Chesapeake Bay’s recovery.

The first story profiles the work of biologist-conservationist Drew Koslow, who collaborates closely with Eastern Shore farmers to stop the flow of nutrients into waterways by using bioreactor technology. Next, the stories of Buddy Willey and Bryan Gomes of the Oyster Recovery Partnership are told – footsoldiers who are committed to rebuilding oyster stocks around the Chesapeake by teaching others how to grow them. Finally, further north across the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania, Pat Fasano’s efforts to educate and persuade Amish farmers about the pressing need to implement new and better conservation techniques is told.

Produced by Katie Bryden, Shannon Lawrence, Katherine Dye, and their colleagues, and by American University’s Center for Environmental Filmmaking, in association with Maryland Public Television.

Panel discussion, hosted by Professor Chris Palmer, follows screenings. Panelists include student filmmakers and Professor Mike English, who taught the Center for Environmental Filmmaking class where Chesapeake Villages was produced for Maryland Public Television.